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50 People Who Matter 2011 | 32. Michele Bachmann

Scarier than Sarah.

There are two ways of telling the Michele Bachmann story. One is the tale of an astonishing political rise: Bachmann, born into a family of Iowan Democrats, was elected into the House of Representatives in 2006 and is now running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. On 13 August, she became the first woman to win the Ames Straw Poll, hosted by the Grand Old Party in Iowa. And then there's the other way: Bachmann - a far-right, anti-abortion, Christian evangelist with a psychologist husband who has reportedly engaged in counselling techniques to "convert" gay people to heterosexuality - can at times make Sarah Palin look moderate. It has been suggested that she is heavily influenced by "dominionist" thinkers, who want to create a nation governed by a conservative, Christian understanding of biblical law. To the relief of many, her national poll ratings have collapsed; but, as she pointed out after this month's nominees' debate, John McCain was in fourth place at this stage, four years ago. Watch out, world.

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This article first appeared in the 26 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The fifty people who matter